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Institutional Information: Organization Profile

Descriptive Material for Grant Proposals

Organizational Profile

This material seems to also lend itself, in part, to the “Statement of Commitment” topic.

NOTE: The following wording was taken verbatim from the supplement of a successful proposal. The grant-specific text has been left as guidance, but rendered in light-grey for proposal writers to use and replace in customizing this section to their proposals.  


Management Plan

The University of Tennessee has extensive formal management experience for major research and educational facilities, including its cooperative role as manager of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) with Battelle Memorial Institute. Thus, there is a wide array of expertise available internal to the University to assist the Directors and initial leaders of the Center to effectively develop its facilities, staff, and activities. The Plan outlined here focuses on (i) organizational reporting and structure; (ii) operating management; and (iii) assessment. The underlying tenets of this Management Plan are that flexibility in response to needs for the Center require that the organizational structure be capable of considered, deliberate, and yet rapid decision-making, and that this need for flexibility must be concurrent with accountability to the University and Foundation. As the award procedure for the Center is through a cooperative agreement, it is expected that representatives from the various funding agencies will participate in a variety of capacities in the activities and planning of the Center, but that the day-to-day operations of the Center would be managed by the Center Directors and staff, who are UT employees.

Typical Organization Chart:

Typical Org Chart

Organizational reporting and structure: The Center will report through the Vice Chancellor for Research at the University. Given the interdisciplinary nature of the Center activities and the expectation that the Center will incorporate activities involving joint UT/ORNL faculty and staff, faculty and staff of the Institute of Agriculture, as well as collaborating faculty from several Colleges (including Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Arts and Sciences, Business, Veterinary Medicine and Engineering), it is necessary to have reporting from an appropriate administrative level.

The PI will be the founding Director with an initial tenure of three years. Following this period, a formal assessment will determine whether the Director will be retained, the assessment to be carried out by the UT Office of Research in conjunction with input from the Board of Advisors (BOA). The Director will be the primary contact with the BOA and its Executive Committee and will have overall responsibility for all activities of the Center. The Lead PI has extensive experience managing interdisciplinary research projects involving a dozen staff members. A Deputy Director will be responsible for the day-to-day operational activities of the Center, and thus will be someone with appropriate scientific credentials (e.g. a Ph.D. in a field related to the Center) and personnel management experience. The Deputy Director will have responsibility for the searches for postdoctoral fellows, and will be the point of contact for all short- and long-term visitors. The Deputy Director, in collaboration with the Director, will establish mentors for post-docs and regularly evaluate the success of these. Note that all of the senior personnel and the collaborators have experience attracting and directing post-docs, with most having had extensive experience (e.g. have directed five or more such post-docs). A search for this position will begin as soon as the Center is funded, with the Director and Associate Directors serving as the search committee.

There will be three Associate Directors who will make up the management team of the Center along with the Director and Deputy Director, and will be initially three of the Senior Personnel on this proposal. The Associate Director for Outreach, Education and Diversity (insert name here) will have oversight of all outreach and education activities for the broad community, be responsible for supervising the Outreach Coordinator, and will work closely with the Committee to Promote Diversity (CPD) to ensure that opportunities for participation in all Center activities are made available to diverse students and researchers. She will also have responsibility to plan tutorials, based upon recommendations from partners and in collaboration with the other Directors. The Associate Director for Partner Relations (insert name here) will be the lead contact for all initial industry (ESRI, IBM) and government agency (GSMNP) partners, as well as for the CIMBS supporting agencies. He will develop, with CIMBS partners, plans for Center activities to meet their particular needs and collaborate with the other Directors and staff to initiate them. The Associate Director for Working Groups (insert name here) will be responsible for leading the assessment of working group and workshop proposals (in conjunction with the BOA and CPD), and collaborating with Center staff to organize all working groups and workshops once selected. The final selection of these activities will be made by the team of Directors based upon input from the BOA and CPD. All Associate Directors will utilize the expertise of UT/ORNL Senior Personnel and Collaborators in planning and carrying out Center activities.

An Information Technology Manager will have responsibility for all IT support, for basic hardware and connectivity, software and applications for collaborative services, and for high performance computing (HPC). All IT staff (an HPC specialist and a Senior Analyst with web and database experience) will report to the IT Manager. We have already identified current UT staff who have long experience collaborating with the PI on computational problems in biology who would be available and excellent choices to fill these IT positions.

A Business Manager will oversee all aspects of finances, accounting and budgeting for the Center. This person will be expected to have knowledge of financial accounting systems in place at UT, human resource policies and procedures for staff, and be capable of providing concise summaries of all financial activities of the Center. Reporting to the Business Manager will be a Travel Coordinator who will manage all travel and visa arrangements for all visitors and Center staff and researchers. One Administrative Assistant will report to the Deputy Director and assist in the meeting the needs of the post-docs and visitors, and another Administrative Assistant will report to the Director and assist in the activities of all Associate Directors. An Outreach Coordinator will report to the Associate Director for Outreach, Education and Diversity and will be responsible for developing and managing outreach and education initiatives, as well as assist in planning tutorials.

A Board of Advisors (BOA) will be established consisting of a group of researchers and educators external to UT who will be expected to fulfill two main obligations: (i) review the activities of the Center annually and provide a report outlining their assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the Center to both NSF and other cooperating agencies, and to UT; and (ii) provide a means to externally review proposal submissions to the Center for activities to be held at the Center. We anticipate the need to have a fairly large group (20 members) on the BOA based on the proposed diversity of activities and fields encompassed by the Center. All BOA members would be involved in proposal evaluations, however a much smaller Executive Committee (4 members plus a Chair, elected by the members of the BOA), 3 would be charged to carry out the assessment of the Center activities and the effectiveness of the Director.

In selecting BOA members, the need for expertise in the array of scientific areas will be taken into account, as well as the need for expertise in evaluation and assessment procedures and diversity of background. A Committee to Promote Diversity (CPD) will be established consisting of 5 members external to UT plus one UT researcher, with a task of providing advice and assistance to the Center on enhancing the ethnic and gender diversity of participants in all Center activities, including selection of BOA members. The CPD will select its Chair from among its external-to-UT members to serve a 2-year term, and this chair along with one additional non-UT member of the CPD will serve on the BOA.

Selection of the membership of the BOA and the CPD will be made by the leadership team of the Center, with input from the various Agency cooperators, and open requests for participation made to the research and education communities.

Operating management: The major Center activities will be managed by the above described leadership team consisting of the Directors. This team will hold regular monthly meetings with all Center staff with supervisory responsibilities (e.g. the IT and Business Managers) as well as the Outreach Coordinator. The major activities of working groups and workshops involve three components: proposal solicitation, evaluation and selection; working group and workshop planning and hosting; and assessment. Proposals will be solicited through an array of electronic and in-person requests at diverse venues. Proposal evaluation will be carried out by the BOA as advisory to the Director who along with the other Directors will make the final determination of which proposals to support. Guidelines for proposal submission and evaluation will be broadly disseminated and developed with input from the CPD and the BOA, and advice from other NSF Centers who have similar activities. The Associate Director for Working Groups will coordinate all planning for working groups and workshops. All educational and outreach activity coordination will be led by the Associate Director for Outreach, education and Diversity, who shall also be charged with investigating additional funding mechanisms to support educational and outreach activities.

Assessment: Standard University operating procedures requires any Center to be reviewed by the Research Council of the Faculty Senate every five years, but the Center will have an annual review by the Vice Chancellor for Research, as well as an annual review conducted by the BOA Executive Committee. These reviews will be coordinated so as not to be overly burdensome. The format of the evaluation by the BOA Executive Committee would be two-fold: (a) assessment of the quality of activities carried out at the Center and (b) evaluation of the leadership of the Center. Both components would be provided as reports to the funding agencies and the Vice Chancellor for Research. UT has a very formalized set of procedures for personnel evaluation and in order to reduce duplication of effort, the personnel evaluations carried out by the BOA of the Director would be coordinated with those of the Vice Chancellor. Consistent with UT personnel evaluation procedures, the Director would carry out a yearly evaluation of all Center staff. Assessment methods for the working group, workshop and tutorial activities will be developed by the Associate Director of Outreach, Education, and Diversity, utilizing several mechanisms and with input from evaluation and assessment expertise available at UT. These assessments will be tabulated by the administrative assistant to the Directors with regular reports provided to funding agency representatives and the BOA.

In the third year of Center activities, an evaluation of the Center leadership will be carried out by a committee chosen by the Vice Chancellor for Research with input from the BOA. The evaluation committee will include representation from internal and external to UT, and will make a formal recommendation regarding any suggested changes in the leadership team to the Vice Chancellor who will consult with funding agency partners of the Center regarding any modifications of Center leadership.